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Major Critical Texts and Manuscript Abbreviations of the Old Testament
AC: Aleppo Codex
AT: Aramaic Targum(s)
B.C.E.: Before Common Era
BHS: Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Edited by Karl Elliger and Wilhelm Rudolph. Stuttgart, 1984.
B 19A: Codex Leningrad
c.: Circa, about, approximately
LXX: The Greek Septuagint (Greek Jewish OT Scriptures in general and specifically used during of Jesus and the apostles)
OG: Original Greek (Oldest recoverable form of the Greek OT (280-150 B.C.E.)
SOPHERIM: Copyists of the Hebrew OT text from the time of Era to the time of Jesus.
CT: Consonantal Text is the OT Hebrew manuscripts that became fixed in form between the first and second centuries C.E., even though manuscripts with variant readings continued to circulate for some time. Alterations of the previous period by the Sopherim were no longer made. Very similar to the MT.
MT: The Masoretic Text encompasses the Hebrew OT manuscripts from the second half of the first millennium C.E.
QT: Qumran Texts (Dead Sea Scrolls)
SP: Samaritan Pentateuch
SYR: Syriac Peshitta
TH: Greek translation of Hebrew Scriptures by Theodotion, second cent. C.E.
VG: Latin Vulgate
NOTE: Hebrew reads right to left not left to right. So, normally one would start at the right and read back to the left, which might seem strange to the Western mind. However, here we will give you a reverse interlinear, so you can read left to right.
Deuteronomy 32:8 The Westminster Leningrad Codex (WLC)
8 בְּהַנְחֵל עֶלְיוֹן גּוֹיִם בְּהַפְרִידוֹ בְּנֵי אָדָם יַצֵּב גְּבֻלֹת עַמִּים, לְמִסְפַּר בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
Deuteronomy 32:8 The Dead Sea Scrolls (QT)
8 [לְמִסְפַּר] בְּנֵי הָאֱלֹהִיל
The Dead Sea scrolls are very fragmented here but the Hebrew for “sons of the God” is very clear.
Deuteronomy 32:8 The Septuagint Version of the Old Testament: English Interlinear
8 ὅτε διεμέριζεν ὁ ὕψιστος ἔθνη, ὡς διέσπειρεν υἱοὺς Ἀδάμ, ἔστησεν ὅρια ἐθνῶν κατὰ ἀριθμὸν ἀγγέλων θεοῦ
Deuteronomy 32:8 The Septuagint Version of the Old Testament: English Translation
8 When the Most High divided the nations, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God. 9 And his people Jacob became the portion of the Lord, Israel was the line of his inheritance.
Deuteronomy 32:8 The Lexham English Septuagint
8 When the Most High distributed nations
as he scattered the descendants of Adam,
he set up boundaries for the nations
according to the number of the angels of God.
9 And his people Jacob became the portion of the Lord,
Israel an allotment of his inheritance.
|Deuteronomy 32:8-9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
|Deuteronomy 32:8-9 English Standard Version (ESV)
8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
|Deuteronomy 32:8-9 New Living Translation (NLT)
8 When the Most High assigned lands to the nations,
9 “For the people of Israel belong to the Lord;
 I.e., humankind, the human race
The Masoretic Text (MT) has the reading “sons of Israel” (בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל) in verse 8 of Deuteronomy chapter 32. The Dead Sea Scrolls (QT) has the reading “sons of God” (בְּנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים) in verse 8 of Deuteronomy chapter 32. Most of the Greek Septuagint (LXX) manuscripts have “angels of God” (ἀγγέλων θεοῦ) in verse 8 of Deuteronomy chapter 32. However, it should be noted that the Septuagint manuscript of Aquila (Codex X), Symmachus (also Codex X), and Theodotion also read “according to the number of the sons of Israel.” More on these manuscripts toward at the end of the article.
Michael S. Heiser Scholar-in-Residence for Faithlife (Logos) Explanation Of Deuteronomy 32:8 Summarized
The Christian Publishing House Updated American Standard Version (UASV) translates the last half of the verse as follows: “He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel” (Deut. 32:8). The UASV is in line with the Masoretic Text, wherein the final two Hebrew words are “sons of Israel” (בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל). Michael Heiser makes the argument that some Septuagint and Qumran manuscripts take for granted that a Hebrew text of “sons of God” (בני אלהים or בני אלים) exists. The context of Deuteronomy 32:8 is that it is referring to Genesis 10-11, the Table of the 70 Families or Nations After the Flood with their descendants or areas where they settled. E. J. Hamlin comments in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, the Genesis table of nations is “unique in ancient literature … Such preoccupation with history cannot be found in any other sacred literature of the world.” (Edited by G. Buttrick, 1962, Vol. 3, p. 515.) William F. Albright (not a conservative) said that Genesis chapter 10 “stands absolutely alone in ancient literature, without a remote parallel, even among the Greeks, where we find the closest approach to a distribution of peoples in genealogical framework … The Table of Nations remains an astonishingly accurate document.” (supplement to Robert Young, Analytical Concordance to the Bible [Eerdmans], p. 30) Returning to Heiser, he focuses his attention on the fact that, for him, Israel is not found within the Table of Nations and asks how God would set “the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel” (בני ישראל) – an entity “that did not yet exist.” (p. 53-54)
Heiser’s answer brings Ugaritic literature into the mix with the Hebrew text. He explains, “Literary and conceptual parallels discovered in the literature of Ugarit, however, have provided a more coherent explanation for the number seventy in Deuteronomy 32:8 and have furnished support for textual scholars who argue against the ‘sons of Israel’ reading. Ugaritic mythology plainly states that the head of its pantheon, El (who, like the God of the Bible, is also referred to as El Elyon, the “Most High”) fathered seventy sons, thereby specifying the number of the “sons of El” (Ugaritic, bn il). An unmistakeable linguistic parallel with the Hebrew text underlying the Septuagint reading was thus discovered, one that prompted many scholars to accept the Septuagintal reading on logical and philological grounds–God (El Elyon in Deut. 32:8) divided the earth according to the number of heavenly beings who existed from before the time of creation.”
Heiser goes onto say that “The coherence of this explanation notwithstanding, some commentators resist the reading of the Septuagint, at least in part because they fear that an acceptance of the (בני אלהים or בני אלים) readings (both of which may be translated “sons of gods”) somehow means that Yahweh is the author of polytheism.” It is for this reason, Heiser argues that the Masoretes intentionally altered the Hebrew text, which he contends only adds further support for the Septuagint and Qumran text.
However, he feels that he unravels that tension of polytheism when one supposedly has a correct understanding of “divine council.” Heiser uses 1 Kings 22:19-23 (cf. 2 Chron. 18:18-22) and Psalms 82, saying there is a likeness with the Ugaritic terminology, which for him provides evidence of other gods. Therefore, he goes on to argue that God assigned the pagan nations to the other gods; then, taking Israel for Himself (See Deut. 32:9; Gen. 12). Even though the evidence raises the issue of a plurality of gods, Heiser says that the people recognized Yahweh as the one and only all-powerful true God. Hence, the Septuagint and the Qumran manuscripts, which for Heiser these are the correspondences with Ugaritic texts, which gives him the rationale for the Masoretic alteration providing the textual evidence that he needs to support “sons of God” as the original reading. In Heiser’s mind, all one needs is a correct understanding of the divine council as it relates to the pagan nations, all the while rejecting polytheism and accepting monotheism, and all of this gives him the support he needs for accepting “sons of God” as the original reading.
The Masoretic Reading Defended As the Original Reading
The Masoretic reading makes perfect sense. We need to understand that it isn’t the pagan Ugaritic texts or any of the Ancient Near Eastern texts that should influence the Word of God. Let’s begin with the fact that the Almighty God is all-powerful and all-knowing. He foresees everything. Then, we need to appreciate that the canonical Bible of sixty-six books are inspired by God, fully inerrant, the authoritative Word of God, as the authors were moved along by the Holy Spirit. What they wrote were the words of God. As for Psalm 82:1, 6, ʼelo·himʹ is used of men, specifically, human judges in Israel. They were seen as gods in their position as human representatives and spokesmen here on earth for the one true God in heaven. Likewise, Moses was informed by God Himself that he was to serve as “God” to Aaron and to Pharaoh. (Ex 4:16; 7:1).
We need to also note that the Dead Sea Scrolls were produced by the Essenes. “Khirbet Qumran was inhabited by members of the Essene sect of Judaism. They formed a kind of “monastic” community, copying biblical texts and creating their own sectarian documents.” (Brotzman, Ellis R.; Tully, Eric J.. Old Testament Textual Criticism: A Practical Introduction, p. 39). The Essenes secluded themselves from society. They believed in mystical ideas about participating with the angels in their worship. The first-century Jewish historian Josephus, describing what a convert to the Essene sect had to observe, he writes: “Moreover, he swears to communicate their doctrines to no one any otherwise than as he received them himself; that he will abstain from robbery, and will equally preserve the books belonging to their sect, and the names of the angels [or messengers]. These are the oaths by which they secure their proselytes to themselves.” (Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987), 606.). The phrase “sons of God” in the Dead Sea Scrolls is often used as a term for angels (Job 1:6). Therefore, it is not surprising that an Essene text prefers a reference to angels rather than to the sons of Israel. The Essenes, as an isolated sect, had little concern for the other Israelites.
On this Commentator, Albert Barnes writes,
“Some texts of the Greek version have “according to the number of the Angels of God;” following apparently not a different reading, but the Jewish notion that the nations of the earth are seventy in number (compare Genesis 10:1 note), and that each has its own guardian Angel (compare Ecclus. 17:17). This was possibly suggested by an apprehension that the literal rendering might prove invidious to the many Gentiles who would read the Greek version.” (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Deuteronomy 32:8).
With the Table of Nations in Genesis 10, we have a full genealogical guarantee that Jesus Christ is the promised, long-awaited Seed. We are aided greatly in establishing chronology back to Adam, something found in no other source. The apostle Paul wrote, “Let every soul be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God, and those that exist have been placed by God.” (Rom 13:1) The Greek verb that Paul used here, namely, (ὑποτάσσω) hupotassō, means to be placed under the orders of another, bring under control, be in subjection. We need to note that Paul did not say that the “governing authorities” were created by God. God is not the direct Creator of the “governing authorities.” He created humans that rebelled, so indirectly, He has allowed them to come into existence. God even foresaw the “governing authorities” coming into existence. In fact, God foretold them to the extent that he was determined to permit their existence. From the moment that Adam rebelled, God had in mind the relation of these “governing authorities” on earth and how they would interact with his people, the Israelites, leading up to the Seed or offspring of the woman. – Genesis 3:15.
This is evident to us when we consider the ancient Jewish nation of Israel or Jacob. As Moses led the nation of Israel out of Egypt, they passed a number of worldly pagan nations, on their way to the borders of the Promised Land of Canaan. Sitting there on the borders, Moses penned a prophetic song before his death, and in it, he said this: “When the Most High [God] gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided the sons of Adam, he set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel. For Jehovah’s portion is his people, Jacob is his allotted inheritance. Jehovah alone guided him, and there was no foreign god with him.” (Deut. 32:8, 9, 12) Out of this nation and as a result of fulfilled Bible prophecy, there came the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, resulting in the Son of Man, who came to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matt. 20:28) We can now understand why God “set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel.” Of the sons of Shem, Eber is named at the beginning of the list (10:21) and again later (10:24) as the word “Hebrew” reasonably comes from his name. God was engaged in bringing about the Seed.
With a similar line of thought, the apostle Paul said to the high court in Athens, Greece: “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by hands, … he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:24, 26-27) Yes, God has “determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” can be seen from the history within the Scriptures. When Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were roaming throughout the Promised Land of Canaan, God allowed the pagan Canaanites to occupy, maintain and control the land and employ their power and authority there. All the while, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had to accept and recognize it, even though they held our faith and hope for the promises God had been making to them.
Psalm 105:13-15 Updated American Standard Version (ASV)
13 And they wandered from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another people,
14 he allowed no man to oppress them;
he rebuked kings on their account,
15 “Do not touch my anointed ones,
and my prophets do no harm!”
The Table of Families or Nations at Genesis 10 was “not just tracing individual histories, but the development of nations, especially as they related to Israel at the time of the conquest of Canaan. It isn’t a complete catalog of all nations, but rather a list that would help Israel understand the origins of the people they would encounter during the conquest, especially in light of the blessings and cursings of Noah’s oracle (9:25-27). The boundaries of Canaan’s territory are described (10:19) because that is the particular region Israel was to conquer. Many of these lesser-known tribes bordered the land of Palestine. Moses wrote this so that Israel would know who these peoples were in relation to God’s promises of blessing and cursing on the descendants of Noah.” – The Roots of the Nations (Genesis 10:1-32) Steven J. Cole
Most English Bibles have “sons of Israel” or something similar because the translation is based on the traditional Hebrew text of the Old Testament, known to us as the Masoretic Text. But how does God dividing humankind and fixing the boundaries of the peoples “according to the number of the sons of Israel” make any sense? Deuteronomy 32:8 hearkens back to what happened at Babel—and Israel did not exist at that time! If you read through the “Table of Nations” in Gen 10, Israel does not even appear.
Rather than stay with the fact that the one true God is all-powerful and all-knowing, with foreknowledge of every detail that was to come in reference to his people because he was miraculously stepping into history at times to get the desired outcome of his will and purposes, authors like Heiser, they have said, ‘He [God] set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel‘ makes no sense; therefore the reading in the Dead Sea Scrolls must be the original reading. Instead of using Scripture to interpret Scripture, they chose to use the Ugaritic texts to interpret Scripture. Authors like Heiser, they have said, ‘He [God] set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel‘ makes no sense; therefore, we will skip over the inspired, the fully inerrant Scripture, of men moved along by the Holy Spirit and go to some human historical reason in our selection of what was the original reading, that is, what was found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The Septuagint continues to be very much important today and is used by textual scholars to help uncover copyists’ errors that might have crept into the Hebrew manuscripts either intentionally or unintentionally. However, it cannot do it alone without the support of other sources. While the Septuagint is the second most important tool after the original language texts for ascertaining the original words of the original Hebrew text, it is also true that the LXX translators took liberties at times, embellishing the text, deliberate changes, harmonizations, and completing of details. Even so, it should be noted that the Septuagint manuscript of Aquila (Codex X), Symmachus (also Codex X), and Theodotion also read “according to the number of the sons of Israel.”
Brotzman and Tully write,
The earliest of these rival versions (ca. 150 CE) was produced by Aquila, a Jewish proselyte and disciple of Rabbi Akiva. The most noteworthy characteristic of his version is its extreme literalness. He translates the same Hebrew word with the same Greek word, even if the word is not really appropriate in the context, and preserves the same word order as the Hebrew text. … Symmachus was a Samaritan who converted to Judaism and worked at the end of the first century CE. 11 He probably based his work on that of Aquila, but he is much more versatile in his use of vocabulary in order to communicate clearly in Greek. Symmachus adapts Hebrew idioms to Greek usage and does not always use the same Greek word to translate each occurrence of a particular Hebrew word. He may have been attempting to avoid the absurdities of Aquila’s version and to create something much more readable. … The third rival version of the second century CE was produced by Theodotion. He came from Ephesus in Asia Minor and was also a convert to Judaism. Theodotion worked at the end of the second century CE and produced a version located between Aquila and Symmachus in terms of formal correspondence to the Hebrew text (see fig. 4.1 below). He often leaves difficult Hebrew words and constructions untranslated. Some of Theodotion’s distinctive readings were known long before he lived. Therefore, it is likely that he was updating the kaige revision mentioned above. For this reason, and due to confusion and uncertainty of the relationship, some scholars reject this as a distinct translation and refer to it as kaige-Theodotion. – Ellis R. Brotzman; Eric J.Tully. Old Testament Textual Criticism: A Practical Introduction (p. 68-69). Baker Publishing Group.
These Masoretes were early Jewish scholars, who were the successors to the Sopherim, in the centuries following Christ, who produced what came to be known as the Masoretic Text. The Masoretes were well aware of the alterations made by the earlier Sopherim. Rather than simply remove the alterations, they chose to note them in the margins or at the end of the text. These marginal notes came to be known as the Masora. Between the 6th and 10th centuries C.E., the Masoretes setup a vowel point and accent mark system. (e.g., אִשָּׁה ishshah woman, wife, female) In the image of the Aleppo Codex above, all of the vowels appear below the line except Cholam ( ֹ), which is placed above, and Shuruk ( ִ), which appears in the bosom of Waw (וּ = u). This would help the reader to pronounce the vowel sounds properly, meaning that there would be a standard, and no need to have the pronunciation handed down by oral tradition. Because the Masoretes saw the text as sacred, it needs to be repeated, they made no changes to the text itself but chose to record notes within the margins of the text. Unlike the Sopherim before them, they did not take any textual liberties. Moreover, they drew attention to any textual issues, correcting them within the margins. There were many places within the Hebrew Old Testament text that was far more of a difficult reading to the Masoretes than what we find at Deuteronomy 32:8, yet they made no changes in the text, but rather if there was an alternative reading that they deemed the original reading, they placed this in the margins of the text.
|The primary weight of external evidence generally goes to the original language manuscripts. The Codex Leningrad B 19A and the Aleppo Codex are almost always preferred. In the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS; critical edition of the Hebrew Bible), 90 percent is without a significant variation. Of the 10 percent that does exist, a very small percentage of that has any impact on its meaning, and in almost all of these very limited textual variants, we can ascertain the original wording of the original text with certainty. Yes, it is rare to find a substantive variant among manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible. The Codex Leningrad B 19A dating to about (1008 C.E.) and the Aleppo Codex from about (930 C.E.) were produced by the Masoretes, who are the most by far extremely disciplined copyists of all time, whose scribal practices date back to about the year 500 C.E. In fact, by the second century C.E., a particular text entire Hebrew Bible became the generally accepted standard text, which is often referred to as the Proto-Masoretic text, as it preceded the work of the Masoretes and, it already had the basic form of the Masoretic text that was to come. These subtle differences in the Masoretic manuscripts are almost exclusively spelling differences, which also included vocalization, as well as the presence or absence of the conjunction wāw, in addition to other features that in no way impacts the meaning of the text. In Old Testament Textual Criticism, the Masoretic text is our starting point and should only be abandoned as a last resort. While it is true that the Masoretic text is not perfect, there needs to be a heavy burden of proof in we are to go with an alternative reading. All of the evidence needs to be examined before we conclude that a reading in the Masoretic Text is a corruption.|
An image of Deuteronomy 31:28 to 32:23 in the renowned Leningrad Codex (B 19A), which dates from 1008 A.D., the world’s oldest complete copy of the Hebrew Scripture and there is no marginal note at Deuteronomy 32:8 expressing and textual issues.
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